So normally I like to keep personal things personal but this happened a week ago and I did not even realize how quickly I had become a victim of the persuasion methods that I thought reading my Cialdini book I had so perfectly mastered.
Last week on Friday at 15:45 I was going to Leamington Spa station when I noticed a talk, dark, young man walking beside me. I noticed him because we had walked quite a long distance together and were getting on the same train to Birmingham as became evident. Once we got on the train I did not see him anymore and to be honest on that train ride it was quite hard to see anything other than the nose and facial hair of the person standing 2cm infront of me. It was one of those up close and personal train journeys where due to being inevitably forced into touching people’s body parts that you normally wouldn’t you get off the train feeling like you’re best buds.
Once we got off I saw him for the second time and we began walking in the same direction yet again. And it was not just anywhere we were both entering Birmingham airport and heading for the Flyebe gates. A little odd, I thought. But since I was deeply disinterested I got on my plane and did not utter a word.
Things started to get a little eerie when three days later as I was coming home from Berlin and waiting for my train back to Leamington Spa I noticed the very same, Mr.Unknown staring at me on the train station. As the train arrived, I got off and bumped into him again. I smiled, laughed and said “ahh what are the odds”, as I now so deeply wished I had not. He laughed back, and although I was then uncertain whether he laughed at “the odds” or at my effort to carry bags that were twice my size, he asked me where I live and I said I lived in North Leam (maybe information you should not disclose to strangers) and he replied that he is going that direction too and politely offered to give me a ride.
I was so hungry and exhausted that did not even realize how easily I had become a victim of the reciprocity rule (Cialdini, 1984). It did not cross my mind then that by admitting to what seemed like innocent and altruistic offer, I will feel indebted and have to comply with whatever he asks for later. Furthermore, research suggests that women who allow men to buy them drinks are judged by both men and women more sexually available (Greenberg&Shapiro, 1988). Apparently, women who agree for others to pay for their taxi, too (Popova, 2016).
I got home still high off this kind stranger’s altruism when 20minutes later I received a facebook request by the same guy. He’d given me a lift home I thought and the least I could do was accept a friend request, so I did... not long after he send me the first message telling me he’s spend the day pondering how this meeting was meant to be and asking me out for coffee. My naïve belief in people’s innocuous altruism was slowly being crashed to pieces. I decided it would be too rude not to reply so I sent short message simply saying that I am not interested but I appreciated his help, nonetheless. And now I am going to clearly outline the main tactics that he used to influence me and make me change my mind:
1) Just Ask: The first thing that I give credit to this guy for is having the guts to just ask me. I might have looked anything but friendly on that Sunday afternoon and he ventured to ask whether I’d go in the car with him. But he did not stop there, he went further to ask if I’d go for coffee.
2) Foot in the door: Reflecting back, I think that if I had not agreed to a ride he would not have asked for coffee but since I had, he already had his foot in the door. The foot in the door technique (Freedman & Fraser, 1966) is a method whereby you start with a small request “e.g. will you let me help you?” and proceeding with a larger request, “will you go out with me?”. Starting small going big increases the likelihood of compliance.
3) Consistency: Consistency as defined by Cialdini is our “nearly obsessive desire to be and to appear consistent with what we have already done” after receiving my initial rejection he clearly did not interpret is as such or he did, but remained consistent. This worked in his favour as it made him seem like someone who is consistent and knows what he wants.
4) Similarity: In the words of Cialdini: “those who wish to be liked in order to increase our compliance can accomplish that purpose by appearing similar to us in a wide variety of ways.” This guy was no fool and before I knew he followed me on Instagram he learned about the books I read and like, the activities that I enjoy. Soon enough rather than just “hey would you go to coffee with me” his messages became “I would love to go out and discuss your opinion on meditation and Osho’s book on fear. By the way, have you read his second one?” Now, I hate to admit that this sparked my curiosity. Was he really interested in the same things that interested me? Were we really similar?
5) Scarcity: How could this one possibly play in a dating scenario?! Well, let me tell you. What I believe had quite an effect was when he insisted that if I do not go out with him for coffee then I would be simply missing the chance of my life. The scarcity principle described by Cialdini states that the idea of potential loss plays a huge role in human decision making- “people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”
6) Perceived behavioural control: According to the theory of planned behaviour self-efficacy “is concerned with judgements of how well one can execute courses of action required to deal with prospective situations” (Bandura, 1982). In this particular case it was when he said “I am only going to take an hour of your life”. Having put it that way, it really seemed to me that the cost of going out for coffee would not be too high after all.
He is clearly not my type, but because of his obvious distant relations with Cialdini and effective use of his techniques, I have decided- I’ll go out for coffee with the guy.
Bandura, A. (1982). Self-efficacy mechanism in human agency. American Psychologist, 37, 122-147
Ajzen, I. (1991). The Theory of Planned Behaviour. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179-211
Cialdini, B. R. (1984). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. (3rd Ed.) New York: HarperCollinsPublishers.
Freedman, J. L. , & S. C. Fraser. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door-technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 195-203.